Sunflower, Notodden Blues Festivals Turn 20

Sunflower, Notodden Blues Festivals turn 20
Leaders promise spectacular sister city celebrations
CLARKSDALE – The Sunflower and Notodden International Blues Festivals are turning 20 this summer, and joint sister city celebrations promise to be spectacular, report Clarksdale co-chairmen John Sherman and Melville Tillis.

“Jostein Forsberg and Ed Murphy from Notodden met with our association last week, and we’re tossing around several ideas,” comments Sherman.

One already crystallized in a grant application is showcasing 2007 Norwegian Grammy winner Rita Engedalen on the Sunflower main stage along with several of her fellow Norwegian musicians.

The multi-talented vocalist and composer wrote and recorded “Sister Town” on her “Hear My Song” CD following her visit to Clarksdale in 2003.

The song celebrates sites and individuals in Clarksdale and the Delta including Red’s, Delta Donuts, blues diva Jessie Mae Hemphill, and filmmaker Scott Jennison who recorded both festivals.

In 2003 Engedalen and Norwegian bass player Jens Haugen performed several numbers as guest artists on the Sunflower stage with Super Chikan Johnson.

“We are excited over Rita winning a Grammy,” says Forsberg, who heads the Notodden International Festival as well as the Spoon Full of Blues Band. “Her schedule is going to be pretty busy.”

Engedalen’s latest CD is titled, “Heaven Ain’t Ready for Me Yet.”
The Notodden Festival is one week before Clarksdale’s Sunflower scheduled Aug. 10, 11, and 12.

The sister-city relationship between Notodden and Clarksdale became official in 1996, and there have been many visitor exchanges between the two cities.

Planning joint 20th blues festival anniversaries
When leaders of the International Notodden Blues Festival from Norway visited their sister city of Clarksdale recently, they met with members of the Sunflower River Blues Association to discuss plans for jointly celebrating the 20th anniversaries of their two festivals this summer. The Norwegian festival is one week before the Sunflower which is scheduled Aug. 10,11, and 12. Included in the group are (seated from left) Maie Smith, Jostein Forsberg, chairman of the Notodden Festival; Ed Murphy, Notodden booking chairman; Melville Tillis and John Sherman, Sunflower co-chairmen; and Yvonne Stanford, Sunflower secretary; standing are Aaron Weddington, James Alford, and Johnnie Kinnard.

Rita Engedalen